by PATRICK A. HOWELL
When I think of a lady, I get the image of Lena Horn’s “Glinda the Good Witch of the South” in The Wiz—an angelic majesty of pure goodness sitting upon her cosmic throne amongst the constellations, her children, spreading the light to all who seek illumination. She is just so sweet. So, so sweet.
But you know what really blows my mind? There are so many of these ladies doing incredible work in the universe, and if our children, our bright stars, knew one true thing, it is that they can truly do anything they set their minds to.
Anything. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyhow. Period.
For sure, they would know about the super nova, Ms. Kandis Davis, the professional cellist, chic and cosmopolitan, residing in France and playing at Olympic stadiums, fashion weeks in Milan and venues throughout Europe—all since the age of 15! The Detroit native studied music at Detroit Country Day, Blue Lake Fine Arts and Interlochen, and also was an All-American track and field athlete. She completed undergraduate and post-graduate studies at University of Michigan, Canterbury University, The Civic School of Music in Milan, and the Magaloff Academia.
Kandis fondly recalls: “I was fifteen years old at the time and turned sixteen while on tour in these marvelous European countries, from France, to Germany to Switzerland and beyond. We, as an orchestra, were hosted by European families of musicians who studied at the counterpart European music institutions, and some families spoke very little English. So many times, my host families and I would ‘speak’ through the music we all knew and after dinner, we would sit around and play pieces of music, like Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, that we all knew and this was how we ‘communicated.'”
Kandis, a classic violon-cellist (as they say in France) continues: “That’s when I discovered that music is a language of its own which has no need for words, as it transcends vocabulary and languages spoken by speaking to the soul of each individual listener. That experience in Europe transformed my life as I’d always been told by my parents that ‘the world is my oyster,’ but when I saw my music speaking to people to whom I could not, I understood more deeply what they meant.”
African Americans have a proud history of innovation, creating nearly every musical tradition in America – Rock and Roll, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Soul and Hip Hop. American history is also rich with the accomplishments of classical artists like Kandis: in 2002, Tage Larsen became the first African-American musician in the history of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Misty Copeland is a soloist at the American Ballet Theater; Jessye Norman continues to travel the world performing world-famous, centuries-old operas, and; pianist Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins (1849-1908), who travelled throughout North America, performed works of Bach, Beethoven and his own compositions.
Kandis’ accomplishments are note worthy: she’s won titles of Principle Cellist for the International Festival of Orvieto, Italy and in the Symphonic Orchestra of Pavia, Italy. She has sat on the board of directors of the Benvenuto Club of Milan and was awarded Soloist of the Year by the Civic School of Music of Milan for her virtuoso cello repertoire.
Kandis reminisces about her childhood and continuing the tradition with a new generation of geniuses: “No electronic devices, no toys, no television or phone calls. Just me and my music. This not only helped me to learn discipline and task setting/accomplishing, but it offered me an environment of intense concentration, which I learned early on in life. Knowing how to sit still, concentrate and quietly accomplish a task is a skill that’s not only good for kids. It is a skill that helps any adult, as well.”
Yes, American history is rich with the great accomplishments and good works of classicists as Ms. Kandis Davis. There is French horn player Julius Watkins, opera singer Kathleen Battle, Wynton Marsalis (yes, the New Orleans trumpeter of the renowned Jazz family), violinist Regina Carter (another Detroit native) and Sugar Hill pianist Roy Eaton. Our world history, beginning with the 18th Century Afro-Brazilian and Afro-French composers, is even richer with composers, pianists, violinists and opera singers such as Guadeloupe-born and Paris-based Chevalier De Saint-George (1739-1799), dubbed the “black Mozart”.
A rich history deserves to be applauded and celebrated year round. Kandis’ accomplishments have won her opportunities to perform on television and be celebrated in leading European magazines. Just this past November, Kandis performed with Picasso Strings, David Guetta and Sam Martin for the grand finale of The X Factor Italia, broadcast live to a national audience in the UK.
“My cello’s name is Mischia and that’s the name every cello I’ve ever played on has had since I was seven years old. Talk about having ‘an imaginary friend!’” she laughs hearily. “Mine was made of wood and actually spoke to me and others when I followed my teacher’s instructions!”
Yes, all kinds of sweet goodness and greatness. Goodness gracious. My, my, my. Instead of celebrating Black History Month in February 2015, begin celebrating our rich history 24/7 NOW? The rest of the world already is.
Patrick A. Howell is a proud MBB contributor. He has also co-coined the idea “Global I AAM” as representative of the Global International African Arts Movement, the one that comes after Hip Hop which came after the Harlem Renaissance which came before the Black Arts Movement. Check him out on Facebook, Pinterest or Tweet him at @PatrickAnthony.